So You’re My Replacements (The Next Doctor)
|What do you mean they’ve cast him? He’s, like, five years|
It’s Christmas, 2008. X Factor winner Alexandra Burke is at number one with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” narrowly beating Jeff Buckley’s version, which charted in an attempt to thwart The X Factor from taking the Christmas number one. The remainder of the charts are basically unchanged since earlier in the month, save for Geraldine’s “Once Upon a Christmas Song” and a different choice of Beyonce singles. In news, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is arrested for trying to sell Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, 1400 people lose their jobs in Ireland due to a crisis caused by pork contaminated with dioxin, and Woolworths announces that it will be closing all of its stores.
On television, meanwhile, it’s the fourth new series Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Next Doctor. It is difficult to list anything that’s especially awful about The Next Doctor. David Morrissey is a fine actor, and while he is shamelessly hamming here, it is a skilled execution of the style that is inappropriate neither for the part nor the occasion. Indeed, it is almost preferable to call his performance charcuterie – a distinction without any difference in meaning, but with considerable difference in implication. The plot moves along with reasonable efficiency. There are funny bits, there are moments of quality drama, and the whole thing is good fun.
Why, then, does it feel so hollow? Even this is, perhaps, unfair. It’s hard to argue seriously that this is the nadir of the Davies era. Most people hate Planet of the Dead more, it seems. But for my money, and we’re getting ahead of ourselves slightly here, Planet of the Dead never purported to be anything other than a frothy romp written by Gareth Roberts. The Next Doctor, on the other hand, presented itself as altogether more significant.
The key step in this came on October 29th, two days after Secrets of the Stars wrapped, as David Tennant announced his departure from Doctor Who. This did not exactly surprise anybody – ever since the announcement that 2009 would consist of a run of specials instead of a full season of Doctor Who, the consensus speculation was that Tennant was leaving. Davies already played with this once with the regeneration cliffhanger of The Stolen Earth, and with the knowledge that Moffat was taking over the default assumption was that Tennant was leaving. But that was only true among the tiny portion of the audience who actually followed Doctor Who news closely. For the wider public, it was not until the 29th that the speculation over who the next Doctor would be properly ramped up.
Davies, of course, anticipated this fully, and designed The Next Doctor to played ludicrously with that speculation. And he succeeded wildly, with David Morrissey being the bookmaker’s favorite for the part. Almost anyone paying close attention assumed the truth – that Morrissey was being employed in a story distantly derived from Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman’s Colin Baker audio The One Doctor – but the general mood was nevertheless one highlighting this episode as significant and major.
And, of course, this is the episode that follows from Journey’s End. In 2007 the Christmas special garnered the new series’ highest ever ratings with its most spectacular bit of stunt casting ever, namely Kylie Minogue. This time, with considerably less ostentatious casting, the series pulls in almost the same ratings, a feat that further highlights the extent to which Doctor Who is, at this point in its history, simply a massive cultural institution in a way it had never truly been before. Attempting to understand The Next Doctor merely as a story is folly – it exists first and foremost as part of Doctor Who’s own paratext. More than any other story, it is not one that is a story about the Doctor, but rather one that is a story about the ongoing progress o Doctor Who as a cultural object in the UK at large.
Given this, there is something odd about the story itself. It makes it all of fifteen minutes before it starts to suggest strongly that David Morrissey is not, in fact, playing the Doctor. And that plot resolves entirely at the half-hour mark, leaving it a full half hour to be a lengthy Victorian romp with Cybermen. There is something disappointing about this, to say the least. And yet the disappointment reveals a larger issue.
The Cybermen, after all, are the epitome of business as usual for Doctor Who. They are the monsters Doctor Who turns to when it is time to bring back an old monster. They are epic without substance – the event that gets trotted out for the sake of being an event. They are not the only monsters this can be done with, certainly, but they are the ones that hit the strange balance of being a big enough deal to qualify as an actual cultural event (look how the ratings spiked for Rise of the Cybermen…) while still, at the end of the day, being a bit rubbish and hollow (and fell again for The Age of Steel). And so seeing them trotted out for the post-Journey’s End Christmas special speaks volumes about the nature of this story and the way in which the series is conceiving of itself.
And to be fair, there’s nothing wrong as such with this. Journey’s End was a titanic success. If there’s ever been a point where the series has a license to just calmly be itself it’s now. A kinda duff Cybermen story with some sparkly Victorian visuals seems like the epitome of what should follow it – a mashed up bit of Doctor Who as usual that is exactly what the giddy narcissism of Journey’s End seemed to foreshadow. And if one stops to look, Davies is, as usual, being more careful and interesting than you’d expect. Victorian England at Christmas is an obvious pick, but Davies doesn’t focus on the gentry, from which Victorian Christmas imagery usually hails. The opening sequence of the Doctor grinning and walking around a Victorian setting is notable for its focus on a wealth of different classes. It is, of course, aggressively ahistorical – Davies’s usual multiracial historical fantasy is in play, and he’s unabashedly juxtaposing bits of Victorian culture into a single overly crowded street scene. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that this is a Victorian-era story about child labor and workhouses, which is, to say the least, not the most expected setup for “Victorian-era Christmas story.”
But in another sense, we’re running into a problem we’ve seen before. At least twice, in fact. In both 1973 and 1983, Doctor Who did triumphant celebrations of itself. And they were successful. Doctor Who reaffirmed the fact that the British public at large quite liked having Doctor Who around. The problem is that neither 1984 nor 1974 were very good years for Doctor Who at all. In the case of 1984, the problem was admittedly the climactic festering of a rot that had been setting in for years. In 1974 the problem was subtler – a point when one particular vision of the program simply got long in the tooth.
But in each case the problem was basically the same – the ecstatic hype of the massive celebration faded not just into business as usual, but into a particularly expected and, dare we say it, banal business as usual. And that, in many ways, is the real problem with The Next Doctor – it feels like the Davies era as assembled by committee. Heartstring yanking, spectacle, and some show-off effects sequences that are there just to cackle about how Doctor Who has a budget now. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing right with it either. It’s Doctor Who on autopilot. The fact that it was recorded at the end of the Series Four production block, after Davies had written himself half to death with the finale doesn’t help, one supposes, but that’s just speculative excuse making.
Business as usual would not have been a problem in and of itself, of course. At worst it would leave us with relatively little to say. But instead we have an episode built around hype and speculation. It is one thing to do a kind of straightforward Cyberman romp in Victorian England for Christmas. Reasonable, even – it’s a perfectly nice big picture bit of Christmas fluff, which, while no fan’s first choice for a Christmas special (or any other episode), is a perfectly reasonable choice for a major television show looking to air an episode on Christmas. It is quite another, however, to do a John Nathan-Turner style “the Doctor’s Wife” bit of hype and then pay it off with a duff Cybermen runaround.
Because there isn’t really a satisfying payoff to the title. The Next Doctor turns out to in fact be a character we only meet in hindsight – a man who believes himself to be the Doctor, but is in fact just an ordinary man. There’s a real narrative problem with Jackson Lake in this regard. We never really meet him – he’s only defining trait is that he’s not actually the Doctor. His wife is literally just a fridge – a female character whose sole trait is being murdered so as to traumatize a male star. (Seriously. We learn nothing about her except that she’s been traumatically and violently murdered.) His son exists to not be fridged, which is even stranger – he’s introduced purely for the purpose of saying “he’s not dead!” The only character in all of this that actually comes off as interesting or developed is Rosita, and even with her there’s the unnerving suggestion that Lake only picked her as his companion because her name was similar to Rose’s. And Rosita, of course, is the one we don’t find out about in any detail.
Much of the Tennant era has been about the theme of arrogance and hubris. And here, perhaps, is where the show crosses its own line. Here the show becomes every bit as hubristic as it ultimately condemns Tennant’s Doctor for being. It serves up an episode that simply doesn’t bother to do anything beyond the minimum requirements, and hypes it as being something massive and substantial. It’s not awful – Doctor Who is a reasonably likable show even at mediocre level, and The Next Doctor, arrogant and frustrating as it may be, is far from the awful let-down of The Monster of Peladon, Death to the Daleks, Warriors of the Deep, or The Twin Dilemma. But nevertheless, there’s a sense that Doctor Who doesn’t actually have any ideas here.
It’s telling that this is the episode where we finally get the “all ten Doctors” montage. Because all it has to do is revel in its past. (And it’s a past that only narrowly makes sense. One can construct explanations as to why the Cybus-style Cybermen have an infostamp containing information on all ten Doctors, but anything one comes up with is a slapdash fan explanation to cover a clear gaffe.) There’s nothing left for the Davies era to do other than explore relatively obvious combinations of ideas that it happens to have not actually done before.
It’s not some fatal blow – some sign that the era must be cast down and torn apart so that something new may arise. But it is a sign that it’s time for the end – that this particular vision of what Doctor Who can be has run its course, and that its best days are behind it. There’s still fun to be had, but it is an OK time to say goodbye.
But if there is a redemption to be had for The Next Doctor, it is this: for all the hubris involved in this particular episode, the truth is that its hype and letdown are only a problem because the ending of the Davies-style approach to Doctor Who is coming to an end. It’s the fact that the Davies era is in the process of being replaced by the Moffat era that makes this episode’s tease and letdown so disappointing. It comes at a point where we really might learn who the next Doctor is – indeed, barely a week after this episode aired we did. The biggest problem with The Next Doctor, then, is that it’s not actually a part of that ending. The end of the Davies era is something worth considering – it is, after all, still very good, and certainly has a glorious finale in it. The beginning of the Moffat era is something worth considering. But this middling moment that is unwilling to commit to either camp is, in some ways, the most disposable and ephemeral bit of the Davies era. It’s an episode that only makes sense in the context of the speculation that existed at the end of 2008 – that was only even remotely worth doing in the course of the ten week gap between Tennant announcing his retirement and the announcement of Matt Smith. From any other perspective, it is in effect an hour-long teaser for something we’ve all already seen.
January 20, 2014 @ 12:18 am
I've always thought that this was something of a missed opportunity (albeit one for entirely understandable reasons), since we've had multi-Doctor episodes where the present Doctor has met his past selves but we've never had one (with the possible exceptions of the Watcher and the Valeyard) where the present Doctor has encountered one of his future selves. Perhaps more than a bit impractical I'll concede, but how cool a recurring thread would it have been throughout all of the specials to have the Tenth Doctor, the Doctor who feared his regeneration more than any of them, be constantly haunted Watcher-style by his own future incarnation rather than a prophecy or the Ood or whatever. The confrontation in "The Waters of Mars" would have been way cooler if it had been the Eleventh Doctor glaring silently at the Tenth Doctor rather than the Ood at the end, IMHO.
It doesn't even need Matt Smith to have fully worked out a character or been given a proper costume yet — just dress in him a tatty version of the Tenth Doctor's suit and shove him on set at a crucial moment in the shadows on the sidelines.
January 20, 2014 @ 12:19 am
It would have also neatly resolved the dilemma Phil discusses about (how the whole actual "Next Doctor" thing just disappears from the script); Jackson Lake turns out to have been a misdirection. We actually see the real next Doctor right at the end, foreshadowing the end of the Tenth Doctor's journey.
January 20, 2014 @ 12:27 am
Small typo: "the ongoing progress o Doctor Who as a cultural object in the UK at large."
January 20, 2014 @ 12:47 am
Once he gets his sense of self back, it should have been Jackson who rescues his son, rather than the Doctor performing another needless Superman act of heroism. Even better: they find Jackson's son in peril; the Doctor rushes in like a swashbuckler; and he ends up getting trapped himself. So Jackson saves his son and the Doctor. That's the I-learnt-something-today moment of triumph the character and story seemed to be leading to.
January 20, 2014 @ 12:57 am
Let us not forget the Cybershades, which are one step away from combining a diver's helmet with a gorilla suit.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:18 am
Oliver Twist was something of a Christmas regular movie on TV in the UK over the decades, so child labor and workhouses is not an entirely unexpected setup for a Victorian-era Christmas story.
In fact just the year before "The Next Doctor" aired, the BBC premiered it's 5-part adaptation of Oliver Twist on BBC 1 over December 2007.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:23 am
Interestingly enough, Davies himself points to The Next Doctor's shortcomings on the episodes' commentary, and solves one of them. The first problem, that of the mystery of whether David Morrissey is actually the next Doctor or not, Davies admits to fumbling because he says he actually hasn't the patience as a writer to write mysteries. he was far more interested in exploring Jackson Lake's mental state.
The second is the ending and no, i'm not talking about a whopping steampunk Cyberman stomping over Victorian London: this is Doctor Who and that sort of thing runs through the programme like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock. If you want serious sci-fi you're watching the wrong programme. Doctor Who is, and always has been, silly. It's iconic enemy does nazi salutes with a sink plunger, for gods sake!)
The problem with the ending is that the Doctor essentially says a few words, there's a meaningless explosion and then he points something he just picked up a few scenes before to rid London of the Cyberking. Davies realised, during the commentary, that the better way of ending the story was for Miss Hartigan, instead of simply having breakdown and blowing up the Cyberking, instead realising what a monster she has become and sending the Cyberking back into the void instead. It would have been a fitting end for her, and one more becoming of her character.
Indeed, that is partly the problem with the story: too many ideas and not enough time to fully explore them.
Still, we had the huge media frenzy around whether Morrissey was indeed the next Doctor (he wasn't, and neither was David) and a huge stomping steampunk Cyberman stomping over Christmas Card Victorian London. Not a bad story, all said and done. But not the best story either.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:24 am
One can construct explanations as to why the Cybus-style Cybermen have an infostamp containing information on all ten Doctors, but anything one comes up with is a slapdash fan explanation to cover a clear gaffe
There's definitely a line about how it was stolen from the Daleks in the void. It's a crap line, and Davies agonised over how crap it was, but it is in there.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:30 am
"Still, we had the huge media frenzy around whether Morrissey was indeed the next Doctor (he wasn't, and neither was David)"
Reading Morrissey's autobiography at the moment (and ejoying it despite what I'd heard), it was strangely bizarre seeing him describe his childhood television watchig, including Doctor Who and The Generation Game – I just assumed this sort of thing had completely bypassed him! He reveals he was asked to play Dot Cotton's long-lost son in Eastenders but turned it down because he couldn't see how anyone could have such a stupid idea, so I guess being asked to play the Doctor could't have been any weirder…
January 20, 2014 @ 1:46 am
I thought they were great. Possibly best thing about this… nice sense of spooky steampunkiness.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:17 am
"It’s hard to argue seriously that this is the nadir of the Davies era."
I'm not going to argue seriously that this is the worst story to come out during the Davies era, but only because I don't like arguing seriously about anything.
But I personally find it the least watchable, and least redeemable, of the entire New Series (with the possible exceptions of Aliens of London and Voyage of the Damned, depending on my mood). It putts along for a whole hour without delivering a skerrick of threat, intrigue, joy or wit until it stops. And worst of all it wastes a great idea in doing so.
No other story has teased so much and delivered so little. About the only interesting thing I can think of is that Tennant is mistakenly credited as 'Doctor Who' for the first time since The Parting of the Ways.
Oh, and sod the 'Christmas' defence. Just look at what we got for Christmas two years later…
January 20, 2014 @ 2:26 am
This is personally the only Doctor Who story I've ever watched that I've never been able to finish. I've tried multiple times. It's not even particularly bad, just painfully mediocre and completely uninteresting.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:34 am
Paddling in the shallow end for a second, I almost cried with joy when the giant steampunk Cyberman arrived. For the first (only?) time, I saw the Cybermen as a credible threat on a planetary level, and I thought it looked about one thousand kinds of awesome stomping over Victorian London.
Not saying it redeems the episode or anything, but blimey it was a good moment.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:35 am
it’s worth noting that this is a Victorian-era story about child labor and workhouses, which is, to say the least, not the most expected setup for “Victorian-era Christmas story.”
A fact which would doubtless depress Charles Dickens, since that was the whole point.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:43 am
Day of the Doctor comes very close to this in two different ways.
Firstly, and most obviously, there's the quick flash of Capaldi, even though he never interacts with the three main Doctors.
Secondly, and more interestingly, I thought the episode was structured much more as a War Doctor story guest starring Tenth and Eleventh, than as an Eleventh Doctor story guest starring Tenth and War. He's got the main storyline, the others enter his timeframe initially, he even gets the character thread while the others do their "this is what the 10th/11th Doctor is like" turns, in the way past Doctors usually do in these stories. (Although that may be because he doesn't have any past characterisation to draw on.)
January 20, 2014 @ 3:12 am
The Day is definitely an Eight-1/2th Doctor story. He's the one who has to decide what to do. The others argue it with him but end up respecting his decision.
But before they carry through, they see a ram caught in some thorns and sacrifice it instead. Or something.
January 20, 2014 @ 3:26 am
"The end of the Davies era is something worth considering – it is, after all, still very good, and certainly has a glorious finale in it. The beginning of the Moffat era is something worth considering. But this middling moment that is unwilling to commit to either camp is, in some ways, the most disposable and ephemeral bit of the Davies era."
This (above) nails my problems w/ The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead. They don't feel enough part of the emotional story we've seen progress from series 1-4, but they don't yet feel part of the Tenth Doctor wrap-up that is Waters of Mars/End of Time. The just…exist in the middle, filling time, which is disappointing when I (as a fan of the Tenth Doctor and his era) want to get the most out of his last episodes as I can.
I also wish that the Morrissey = Doctor mystery had been more weaved into the fabric of the episode itself. I actually quite like the first half of this story. However, as you note, the mystery is pretty much resolved at the halfway mark and a more integrated storyline would have made the episode more interesting and created a better repeat-viewing factor, I think.
January 20, 2014 @ 3:43 am
That's a great idea Scott. Here it could've started with just a flash of 11 at the end of the Doctors montage, Capaldi-style (there's no reason why the Dalek owners of the infostamp haven't met him). And in Waters of Mars, a vision of 'Eleventh Hour'-11 would've made as much sense as that random Ood.
"Missed opportunity" sums up the whole Specials year really. Most of the stories have grown on me since first viewing, but it still seems like a unique chance to try something more ambitious that was squandered. I seem to remember an online rumour that the TARDIS was going to be destroyed in the first special and he'd be without it until the finale; there was lots of that kind of stuff flying about late-2008. What we ended up with has even less of a linking narrative than most of the regular seasons.
January 20, 2014 @ 4:02 am
"The confrontation in "The Waters of Mars" would have been way cooler if it had been the Eleventh Doctor glaring silently at the Tenth Doctor rather than the Ood at the end, IMHO."
I like this idea.
Maybe the Eleventh Doctor is inside the Teselecta, which is disguised as an Ood… xD
There has been a lot of speculation since the Time of the Doctor that the big pay-off to the hologram clothes schtick was the reveal at the end that the Eleventh Doctor died on the clocktower, and appears in the end as a "data ghost" to say goodbye, having already regenerated.
But would that have worked? Although I like the idea, there's the suggestion that neither Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi would be well served by this because the first/last scene they're in is being upstaged by a narrative trick.
And, ultimately, this is a big problem with Doctor Who – there's the idea that the actor has to get a swansong as much as the character. And that the actor has to have his "First Episode". There's very little that supports this historically, but somehow this has crept into the vocabulary of the show as something which Must Happen.
They get away with the scene of Capaldi in Day of the Doctor because he isn't actually required to do anything – but I don't think the show could sustain a scene or an episode in which the future Doctor interacts with his past self. Instantly you are overshadowing the current “brand”, by advertising a future “brand”.
Besides, this just compounds the problem that Steven Moffat talked about recently in which regeneration can potentially look like a new Doctor nobody has warmed to yet, dancing on the grave of the Doctor you love, and have just watched die.
If the Eleventh Doctor is shepherding the Tenth Doctor to his grave… It would take a LOT to justify that, and I think the only reason we can speculate about this now is the benefit of hindsight; It turns out we quite like Matt.
January 20, 2014 @ 4:05 am
"Davies realised, during the commentary, that the better way of ending the story was for Miss Hartigan, instead of simply having breakdown and blowing up the Cyberking, instead realising what a monster she has become and sending the Cyberking back into the void instead. It would have been a fitting end for her, and one more becoming of her character."
Plus it would chime really well with Jackson Lake's story as well: you can sort of spin a "Remember who you are – not who They make you" story out of this, which could chime with the Doctor, named forever! The Destroyer! Of Worldssss!
January 20, 2014 @ 4:06 am
I just love the idea of the Cybusmen in domino masks running raids on Dalek encampments, whilst stuck in a place that doesn't exist.
January 20, 2014 @ 5:50 am
Interesting that Ms. Hartigan receives no mention (except in comments), given that she's the most fleshed-out as a character. She's also some sort of feminist critique, or critique of feminist critiques of the program, or something similarly complicated which I hoped to see worked through by those better positioned than I to do so.
This special marks a point where the Internet fandom's influence over the show reaches new heights, not in the sense that the showrunners were monitoring web forums and Twitter (although one gets the sense they were and are), but in the sense that the showrunners conceptualize what they do in relation to spoiler-threads and trolling behavior. The whole premise of introducing the "next Doctor" is trolling of substantial sort. Hartigan herself exhibits some gloating behaviors familiar to anyone who has spent time online, and her fate seems like a potential troll of feminist fans (maybe? Heavy ambiguities here). The "magic wand" resolution seems almost a caricature of criticisms of Davies's episodes. Even the Cyberking itself is a bit Internetish, a collective electronic steampunk monster that threatens to bestride the world.
It's quite possible to troll online fans in dramatically interesting ways (The End of Time offers several examples), but I don't think Davies manages that here. And it's hard to read the Cyber-apes in a way aligned either with Poe's Rue Morgue story or the original body-horror of the early Cyberyears, and not as a comment on Cyberculture in the online sense of the word.
January 20, 2014 @ 5:52 am
Not sure if this really counts, but wasn't there a glimpse of McGann in Damaged Goods?
January 20, 2014 @ 5:58 am
After reading "The Writer's Tale" which covers the whole of these two years, and seeing how Davies' writing is born out of agony, desperation, and sheer mind-numbing terror at how far over the deadline he is, it continues to surprise me that these aren't actually worse than they are.
And don't say "They couldn't be!" A lot of the time people don't realise how much of the series was actually resting on RTD's shoulders at this time. If he'd had a heart attack at any time the show would probably have collapsed.
January 20, 2014 @ 6:38 am
And it’s a past that only narrowly makes sense. One can construct explanations as to why the Cybus-style Cybermen have an infostamp containing information on all ten Doctors, but anything one comes up with is a slapdash fan explanation to cover a clear gaffe
How is it "slapdash" when they clearly and explicitly state that the infostamps are information they stole from the Daleks?
January 20, 2014 @ 6:42 am
Addendum: I went back to check to make sure I hadn't just made an ass of myself by substituting my own memories for fact.
DOCTOR: The Cybermen's database. Stolen from the Daleks inside the Void, I'd say, but it's everything you could want to know about the Doctor.
This is the line of dialogue that the doctor says while the montage of all ten doctors plays.
One might generously consider the inclusion of Eccleston here a gaffe (The exclusion of Hurt is, of course, an anti-gaffe, since the void Daleks were presumably put into storage before The Doctor became involved in the time war), but that seems kind of petty.
January 20, 2014 @ 7:56 am
I think this story serves plenty of notice as to what's coming with the next Doctor, and the Moffat era in general. That notice, interestingly and telling, is subtextual.
First, there's the matter of Jackson Lake. As we now know, characters named for bodies of water are the staple companions of the Eleventh Doctor. And water, of course, is nature's mirror. Fitting, then, that it's through a mirror that the Doctor first discharges the info-stamp, revealing its nature. The info-stamp itself is found in a desk bearing a cross, which marks the information itself as sacred, while the room itself has a Christmas tree in the background — the World Tree or axis mundi represents the connection between Above and Below.
It's at this point that Lake remembers having seen such a device before, the night he "regenerated" and lost his memories — the "conscious" mind above makes a connection to the "subconscious" below. This depicts breaking through repression in mythological terms — pure Moffat.
Of course, this is kith and kin to Moffat's concerns as showrunner, which is, in part, an exploration of the nature of memory, as well as Identity. One of the primary ways Moffat conducts this investigation is by setting up characters who function as mirrors to each other. Lake is a "mirror" to the Doctor.
This scene also includes some of the significantly repeated phrases of Moffat's tenure: "Who are you?" and "Help me." (An earlier scene even pays homage to Blink.) Another Moffat trope rolled out is a concern with children: "Children stolen away in silence." Indeed, the next Doctor will be a patron saint of children. Heh, this whole bit takes place while the Cybermen wipe out the gathered at Reverend Fairchild's funeral.
I should point out that this is also an Ascension story. "One day soon I shall ascend," says Lake, but the real ascension takes place with Mercy Hartigan. Another interesting name — "Hartigan" means "descendant of Art," commonly associated with King Arthur, but for our purposes we can take it more literally.
Hartigan's ascension notably takes place in a Chair, a symbol recently seen in Moffat's Library story, which also featured the ascension of women. "I can see the stars, the worlds beyond, the Vortex of Time itself, and the whole of infinity. Oh, but this is glorious!" she says, "there is so much joy in this machine." Her ascension is marked by a union of opposites, a woman who is king. Another Moffat trope, the deconstruction of gender roles.
So this story functions as prophecy. The Doctor has to save the child (as opposed to Lake doing it) because the Doctor will be the patron saint of children. The Doctor's solution to Hartigan is to open her mind that she may see herself clearly: "Look at what you've become." This is the power of the Mirror.
(Also, "lost" is an oft-repeated word.)
January 20, 2014 @ 9:03 am
I suspect in light of where RTD was going with the next three stories that he wasn't planning on have Ten learn anything at all before he regenerated. An epiphany of any sort would have undermined the build-up to the Time Lord Victorious. Here, he recoils from the idea that he needs companionship, ignoring Donna's insistence that he needs "someone." In Planet of the Dead, the story gives him that someone and he refuses to take her along (to the point of betraying her to the cops), explicitly rejecting Donna's advice and warnings. In Waters of Mars, we see the culmination of that decision, when he decides to rewrite history to suit his whims because there is no one at hand in a position to tell him no (until the surrogate companion tells him "no" in the most direct way possible).
January 20, 2014 @ 9:10 am
And, ultimately, this is a big problem with Doctor Who – there's the idea that the actor has to get a swansong as much as the character. And that the actor has to have his "First Episode".
You make it sound like that's a new thing. Tenth Planet was clearly written as Hartnell's swan song and Power of the Daleks invented the concept of a "First Episode" for Troughton. The transition between Doctors has always about vaguely sad endings and exciting new beginnings. It's just that now we have 13 episodes over the course of a series that's been meticulously planned out in advance rather than 26 episodes slap-dashed together by a production staff largely uninterested in character arcs.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:11 am
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January 20, 2014 @ 9:14 am
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January 20, 2014 @ 9:15 am
Really? I thought the idea of a giant steampunk Cyberman attacking Victorian London was so silly that I was relieved when Moffat basically retconned (retcracked?) it out of existence in Victory of the Daleks.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:28 am
Davies’s usual multiracial historical fantasy is in play
Well, depends precisely what that means. It's the usual all-white portrayal of Europe that's the historical fantasy.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:30 am
this is a Victorian-era story about child labor and workhouses, which is, to say the least, not the most expected setup for “Victorian-era Christmas story.”
Given what the most famous Victorian-era Christmas story is about, that's not obvious.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:34 am
we've never had one (with the possible exceptions of the Watcher and the Valeyard) where the present Doctor has encountered one of his future selves
Well, we had one last month.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:36 am
Firstly, and most obviously, there's the quick flash of Capaldi
And I meant Baker.
January 20, 2014 @ 9:53 am
I agree that Day of the Doctor was Hurt's story–even with Eleven sparking the narrative change, the focus was on Eight's choice "and the men that day will make of [him]."
January 20, 2014 @ 9:55 am
Although I started watching Doctor Who with series five, I was also caught off guard by the fake regeneration in Stolen Earth/Journey's End–but not the "Next Doctor" trick.
January 20, 2014 @ 10:01 am
I wouldn't say it was Hurt's story so much as his climax, the culmination of a story we're never going to get to see.
January 20, 2014 @ 10:05 am
They also get mentioned, although not depicted directly, in A Christmas Carol.
January 20, 2014 @ 10:32 am
I remembered this one as being unremarkable, even silly, but then when I watched it again recently, I was surprised how much I liked it. That Jackson's wife and companion aren't further developed is unfortunate, but I found his plight fairly moving nonetheless. I think the story's full impact does depend on its timing, as you say — the proximity to the regeneration many if not most people were anticipating — but it could have worked anytime, and I think it does work. I say this as someone who typically has to be sold on Victorian stories; it's not a time/place in history I find particularly appealing. (I have a similar problem with Western stories, which is one reason why my least favorite new series episode is probably going to be "A Town Called Mercy" for a good long while.)
I'm also hoping the hints I'm picking up that you won't come to bury "Planet of the Dead" are real. That's another slight but mostly enjoyable episode for me.
The whole new-series history of Cybermen still makes my brain hurt. Has anyone mapped out the circumstances (or at least a theory) of how they've ended up proliferating in "our universe" and either supplanting or merging with "our" Cybermen?
January 20, 2014 @ 10:33 am
Incidentally, I'd remembered disliking "Stolen Earth / Journey's End" as well, and that was NOT a story I liked better the second time. This may be unambitious but given the alternative I'd count that as a virtue.
January 20, 2014 @ 11:01 am
"Planet of the Dead" gives us a metaphor — Christine de Souza, a mirror to River Song. (Sousa is a toponym for a Portugese river, as well as the name of a fairly well-renowned composer.) "Come on Doctor, show me the stars." Who steals a bus?
January 20, 2014 @ 11:02 am
Oi, what's wrong with silly?
January 20, 2014 @ 11:03 am
January 20, 2014 @ 11:04 am
In hindsight, the thing that gets me is that the Doctor wasted a regeneration that only lasted for the specials year, and a few off-screen adventures while avoiding the Ood.
January 20, 2014 @ 11:21 am
The whole new-series history of Cybermen still makes my brain hurt. Has anyone mapped out the circumstances (or at least a theory) of how they've ended up proliferating in "our universe" and either supplanting or merging with "our" Cybermen?
As far as I know, there's never been an official declaration. But this episode seems to pretty straightforwardly assert that the Cybermen from the void leaked out during the events of Journey's End, and, thanks to having upgraded themselves with stolen Dalek tech, they got splattered across time and space and ate their "Basically fucked at every moment in history" counterparts.
January 20, 2014 @ 11:22 am
I think it's fair to call that a "slapdash fan explanation" – with Davies being the fan in question.
According to the podcast commentary it wasn't his idea to include the montage of all the Doctors to date – it was suggested to him at a script meeting. That line, I assume, must be a late insert to explain the inconsistency.
And it is a little slapdash (exactly how voidy is the void if the Cybermen can board a Dalek ship and nick their biscuits?).
January 20, 2014 @ 11:38 am
Well, except that it comes up again what with the macguffin machine they Cybermen have also identified as having been nicked from the Daleks.
January 20, 2014 @ 12:36 pm
England in the 1840s was a lot closer to all white than it was to England's racial composition today.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
"You make it sound like that's a new thing. Tenth Planet was clearly written as Hartnell's swan song and Power of the Daleks invented the concept of a "First Episode" for Troughton."
I've never got the sense that the Tenth Planet is a swan song for Hartnell OR the Doctor.
Similarly, The Power of the Daleks isn't a "First Episode" – It's doesn't focus on introducing Troughton, it focuses on the mystery of where the Doctor has gone. The answer being, of course, nowhere.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
Not entirely fair, Sean. The horror comes not from what they look like, but from wondering what's inside them.
Also, Ro-Man is, in the best possible way, one of the most absurd visuals to ever come out of moviemaking. It's like, "Am I really watching a man in a gorilla suit with a diver's helmet plonked on?"
January 20, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
And that the actor has to have his "First Episode".
Not sure I agree with this: Rose was more about Rose than the Ninth Doctor, Christmas Invasion had the Tenth mostly unconscious – only the Eleventh has had a real showboating first episode in NuWho to date.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:10 pm
Agreed, from what I've gathered (probably somewhere on this blog) the first draft of the Tenth Planet was a standard story insofar as Hartnell's survival was concerned.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:17 pm
I felt stressed just reading "The Writer's Tale", he's brutally honest about his own shortcomings.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
Can someone explain to me how he "wasted" a regeneration? He was going to die if he didn't use it, so it seems to have done it's purpose. And it' snot like he's stolen the regeneration from anyone or shortchanged anyone, since they're all his regenerations.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
I think it's fair to call that a "slapdash fan explanation" – with Davies being the fan in question.
We can call Davies a "fan" in reference to an episode he wrote as long as we can call me a "writer" in reference to an episode I liked. 🙂
January 20, 2014 @ 1:51 pm
Nothing wrong with silly, but it's disheartening how Cybermen seems to go hand-in-hand with Silly these days, when the concept is rich with potential for social metaphor and horror.
Children forced by Victorian society to do repetitive work in the factory workhouses, performing tasks the machines themselves cannot – the both working together in a coherent fusion of movement. Flesh and Metal, Human and Machine combined in harmony.
But while the metal needs the flesh, it needs the flesh to work mechanically or the flesh will get torn off in the unforgiving machine. Flesh is easily replaceable.
Is the machine working for it's fleshy overseers or does the flesh work for the machine? It looms them wonderful clothes, while they feed it the flesh it needs to function. Perhaps neither is in control: they are working in terrible harmony, feeding each others needs – needs that have no real ambition, only appetite.
True, we see some kids briefly working in a cyber-overseen workhouse, but it's more Temple of Doom basic child slavery than the dangers, downfalls and immorality of fusing child and machine so closely and unforgivingly.
January 20, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
Doubtless you're correct. My thinking was that Jackson would discover that he was a hero himself all the time, rather than needing the mask of a made-up identity…
but OF COURSE it's much more important for the show to tell an ongoing story about the Doctor. 🙂
January 20, 2014 @ 2:00 pm
They're one of the cuddliest monsters since the Mandrels. I'd quite like a stuffed version.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:06 pm
Agreed, where the excels at all is with Morrissey – at first he is funny, charming and an interesting mystery to be puzzled over (a perfect Doctor in that respect) but Morrissey and the script really nail the tragedy of Jackson Lake's recent past – it's quite the most affecting emotional acting I've seen on Doctor Who for some time, grounded as it is in the real-world horror of the death of his wife (his entire family as he believes), hollowing him to the core until there is space enough to be filled with The Doctor's imprint.
I think perhaps – as usual – the Cybermen were one idea too far. Whenever a story is not primarily about them, they are wasted… the story would have been better served with a new threat, or perhaps no threat at all: the infostamp itself could have been made to be drive the tale just as the nanoprobes were enough to drive The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:31 pm
Miss Hartigan is possibly the most interesting aspect of all in The Next Doctor, and it would take more thoughtful person than me to give her character the analysis she deserves.
However there is one horrible speech I have trouble with: the Cybermen have only recently been on Earth. Miss Hartigan herself has been aiding/leading them utterly unconverted, of her own volition and with her own strength of mind. She is finally partially cybernised only at the very end, to control the Cyberking.
The Doctor knows all this, but when he breaks Miss Hartigan free of the cybernisation, he says:
"I wasn't trying to kill you. All I did was break the cyber-connection…. leaving your mind open. Open, I think, for the first time in far too many years. So you can see: just look at yourself. Look at what you've done. I'm sorry Miss Hartigan, but look at what you've become."
And then she screams like a little girl, her strength and will gone. The Doctor has 'cured' her of… what? Not just the cyber-connection, but something deeper within Miss Hartigan that was there before the cyber-connection, before the Cybermen. I guess in playground terms The Doctor has made her "not a baddie anymore", but it troubles me that the strongest female character to appear on Doctor Who in a long time gets "cured". Not punished, not defeated, not thwarted like so many male villians before. It's as if being a strong woman is inherently wrong, rather than her actions and choices.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:43 pm
Interestingly, when The Doctor and Rosita confront Miss Hartigan, Hartigan tells Rosita to "You can be quiet! I doubt he paid you to talk."
I'm not sure Miss Hartigan is insinuating that Rosita is a prostitute or a slave, either works as an insult in the context.
January 20, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
How much better would that story have been if they had the guts to not make that a fake regeneration?
January 20, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Oooh, is there an Iris/River connection? I admit, I know diddlysquat about Iris.
January 20, 2014 @ 3:01 pm
"I doubt he paid you to talk."
If Moffat had written that line…
January 20, 2014 @ 7:14 pm
RTD agonizes about the is-he-or-isn't-he mystery on the commentary track — in the second-to-last draft they held the mystery until the midway point but then RTD just broke down and had Tennant check his heart in the first 15 minutes because, in his words, "Of COURSE he isn't the Doctor. We all know he's not the Doctor and it seems silly to suspend the story just to serve an artificial mystery the audience figured out after 10 minutes."
He didn't think that anyone would take Morissey-is-the-Doctor seriously except as a larf and played it as such, and he didn't have the patience to meticulously structure the episode around such a pretend mystery when he could be dealing with Ms, Hartigan and giant steampunk Cybermen.
I think the people who get riled up about this story are the ones who ever took seriously the idea that RTD would frontload the introduction of the new doctor. That's a Moffat thing!
Arguably the special is faulted for what it's not; actually exploring the possibility of he Doctor meeting his own future self. But it was never meant to be that, IIRC the original germ was "Let's do Cybermen in Victorian times! Their new design is very steampunk don't you think?" and the not-Doctor came second.
January 20, 2014 @ 7:35 pm
It was the BBC's straightfaced assertion circa 2011 that the Doctor Who Adventure Games 'counted' as episodes, just like they insist that Neverland was part of TV canon. (Which, to be fair… it is. The Sarah Jane Adventures picks up elements from Neverland for two different episodes.)
Blood of the Cybermen has non-Cybus-branded versions of the Cybus-bodytype Cybermen and specifically identifies them as Mondas Cybermen. (We wouldn't see nuWho Cybermen lacking the Cybus-C chestmark onscreen until 'a Good Man Goes to War' several years later.)
Basically the Cybus Cybermen seem to have popped up in history some other time and fallen in with the Mondas variety at some point. Presumably the "Pandorica Opens" Cybermen would take place early on in this process because they represent the Mondas faction, but still have the Cybus-C (which got removed from the props a year later.)
I hope Phil is reviewing Neverland, and at least one of the Adventure Games. I liked "the Gunpowder Plot" but I also find Sontarans delightful and thus am not a reliable arbiter of good taste.
(NOTE: No one has ever made a similar assertion of canonicity about The Infinity Clock. Thank God.)
January 20, 2014 @ 7:40 pm
My favorite thing about Day of the Doctor is when Smith first meets Tenant; the entire scene is shot like they were digitally doubling one actor. All split-screen setups and over-the-shoulder shots that could plausibly be a stunt double… all the visual 'language' associated with one actor playing two parts. It was definitely on purpose and it made me laugh aloud when I saw it.
(Stupid clever Moffat. It's not like I like you or anything.)
January 20, 2014 @ 7:53 pm
As a father, it strikes an off chord in The Next Doctor – Jackson Lake stands there and does nothing, and the Doctor makes him look impotent. It felt like he should have being doing something – even if it was something futile, stupid, or even counter-productive.
To just stand there and do nothing, saying "What re we going to do Doctor, what are we going to do!" made me briefly stop believing in Jackson Lake as a character, and up until then Morrissey had made him very convincing indeed.
Possibly, to tick all boxes at least partially, they should have had him head for the stairs again while the Doctor did his rope trick ("We need a quicker way!" or something), and let the Doctor get there first. Would have been better than what was broadcast.
January 20, 2014 @ 8:50 pm
He used it only to keep himself as Ten, which goes against the whole concept of regeneration entirely.
January 20, 2014 @ 8:59 pm
It's certainly a good decision on RTD's part – he quite wonderfully has his cake and eats it in that Tennant doesn't blow the mystery wide open: he gives the nod to the audience, but goes along with Jackson Lake in the meantime, turning it into a different mystery for the audience: why does this guy/how does this guy think and act like he's a future incarnation of the Doctor. It stops the tale being too silly in it's "next doctor" aspect and gives Morrisey's character room to breathe: we stop wondering about his Doctorishness and start enjoying it instead, then sympathising for him (as even before the tragedy is revealed we know he's a human tha's lost his mind)
January 20, 2014 @ 9:11 pm
And did it make him happy? Seemingly not.
In all seriousness thought, could Journey's End have played out successfully (for The Doctor and the Human Race) if he had regenerated there and then, without the metacrisis Doctor being on hand (pun not intended but very much welcome) for the DoctorDonnaDenouementThankyadavros? It's been a while since I watched those episodes.
January 21, 2014 @ 12:20 am
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January 21, 2014 @ 12:24 am
Good points about "Day of the Doctor", all; if we could all pretend that, like the blog says, it actually was Christmas 2008 when I wrote that and "Day of the Doctor" hadn't aired yet, that would be absolutely dandy. This would also have the added bonus of making me look a bit less like I have problems remembering things that only happened a couple of months ago.
"Well, we had one last month."
Two months ago, surely?
January 21, 2014 @ 12:58 am
"England in the 1840s was a lot closer to all white than it was to England's racial composition today."
England, yes. But we're talking about London here, the central dock town in a world empire with little to no competition and when, although slavery was illegal in the Britain, the country had profited immensely from it (the ships went to trade with Africa before moving slaves to the colonies, and then picking up sugar from the Caribbean to bring back to Britain) and only stopped doing so since the end of the Napoleonic Wars . So there is no multi-fantasy at play here: Victorian London was multi-cultural.
January 21, 2014 @ 2:49 am
It certainly couldn't have gone the same way it did, but that's not to say it couldn't have played out in some other successful way. Presumably, it would have to play out so that the solution that saved the day highlighted something about the new doctor that was different from Ten. I would think they'd have to work it so that it was the new doctor's humility that somehow saved the day, to highlight that Ten's hubris was the Fatal Flaw for which he had to die.
(I can understand the storytelling and production reasons why it's unlikely to ever happen, but I would LOVE it for them to do a regeneration story where the regeneration happens in the middle of the story. Spend the first half of the story showing the old doctor being systematically dismantled by a Thing That He Just Can't Handle, then he regenerates and we spend the rest of the story finding out who the new guy is in the form of showing how he can meet the challenge his predecessor couldn't.)
January 21, 2014 @ 5:49 am
I totally agree – mystery's still there, but it's "how/why" rather than "is he".
Although I liked when Ten mentioned that he could be "the next one, or the next-but-one"… not too dissimilar from Moff's recent "mayfly" idea. They could've gone down the route of "he is the Doctor, but an unspecified future incarnation".
January 21, 2014 @ 5:52 am
The Void becomes less of a Void as the series goes on. Love the line from above: "exactly how voidy is the void if the Cybermen can board a Dalek ship and nick their biscuits?" <3
January 21, 2014 @ 5:55 am
Has anyone explained how the Doc knows what a "CyberKing" is? Are we to assume he had off-screen Cybus Cybermen stories somehow? Or do we just assume the Mondas fellas had CyberKings too and the Cybus versions co-incidentally built the exact same kinds of ships?
RTD wanted to redo the Cybes in Series 2 to avoid the complicated backstory that the classic series created – here, though, one could argue the Cybus history is equally as muddled.
January 21, 2014 @ 5:56 am
I love that idea, Ross. But as you say, it probably won't ever happen.
January 21, 2014 @ 6:07 am
Nothing to add to the discussion, but you've just put into words why I love Moffat's use of empty Cyber-shells. Thanks.
January 21, 2014 @ 6:11 am
This. And why raise the possibility of taking her and her new race of Cybermen to another world to start a new civilisation if it's just going to be the typical "kill anything threatening precious humanity" resolution?
January 21, 2014 @ 6:20 am
I thought the Doctor said it was a Mondasian thing that the Cybusmen just happened to develop as well (like the teardrop eyes and handlebars) – maybe I just head-canoned that. (I also remember RTD saying in an interview somewhere that he assumed the Cybermen built all their tech humanoid for ideological reasons because why else would they retain their own humanoid forms; whether that makes it more plausible a deduction or just incredibly stupid is up to you.)
January 21, 2014 @ 7:57 am
In a way, this feels like a prelude to Time Lord Victorious. Earlier in Ten's career (and definitely in Nine's), he might have stepped back and helped Jackson to be the one to save his son. But by this point, the thought simply doesn't even occur to him.
January 21, 2014 @ 8:05 am
And holy crap, I just had an epiphany! Early, during discussions of Time of the Doctor, I had complained that the retcon of Matt Smith really being the 13th Doctor had short-circuited the possibility of explaining what the deal with the Valyard was. But now I see it — The last gasp of the Time Lord Victorious, bitter at the premature ending of his life, so much so that he delays his regeneration long enough "to get [his] reward," unwittingly sends the manifestation of that bitterness back in time to steal Six's life and take a mulligan on his personal history over the last six regenerations.
January 21, 2014 @ 9:19 am
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January 21, 2014 @ 9:21 am
For a while I really thought that was the way Moffat would wrong-foot us with Smith to Capaldi.
January 21, 2014 @ 9:57 am
Moffat has stealthily introduced two new concepts into the regeneration canon which have generated surprisingly little comment. Perhaps because he's done this in his usual way, presenting them in plain sight while obscuring them in a smokescreen of fanservice.
The first is that there is now an element of choice in the process. Gone is the uncertainty of Eccleston's "I'm gonna change..and you never know what you're gonna get".* We've now had the retcon of Tennant's hubristic decision to regenerate into himself and the Sisterhood of Karn's potions of choice producing the Hurt War Doctor. Not to mention the ability of the Time Lords to gift further regens via magic pixie dust.
The second is Tom Baker's cameo as a future Doctor 'revisiting' an old familiar face, thus cementing the idea that the Doctor is eternal; that stretching on into the future far beyond his limit of thirteen or even the next thirteen is a long line of Doctors, perhaps including some more 'mayfly' non-Doctors, Caretakers or Curators.
This last surely makes possible a potential story where the Doctor can meet a future incarnation of himself who we, as viewers, may never see happen. I love how this could open up the opportunity for any actor to give their reading of the Doctor role without being tied to the part.
*Incidently, I always thought Eccleston's semi-joking "I may have two heads", Matt Smith's checking his legs and fingers and Capaldi complaining about the colour of his kidneys kind of answers all the 'where did he get a second heart from' continuity bores. Obviously the number and make-up of a regenerated Time Lord's limbs, organs, heads etc is mutable.
January 21, 2014 @ 11:14 am
Presumably one could find out by reading Henry Mayhew.
January 21, 2014 @ 12:49 pm
Certainly the Sixth Doctor could have strangled his way out of the Caves of Androzani 🙂
January 21, 2014 @ 1:02 pm
Alan: I love it. Particularly since that regeneration was so messy, with some of the energy redirected into the hand and Donna and maybe some overspill sent somewhere else in time….
January 21, 2014 @ 1:04 pm
There's always been an element of choice in process for some Time Lords (Romana) but I like your observations about how Moffat has expanded on that and given the Doctor a chance to try it, just a little bit.
January 21, 2014 @ 1:52 pm
'The Doctor has made her "not a baddie anymore", but it troubles me that the strongest female character to appear on Doctor Who in a long time gets "cured". Not punished, not defeated, not thwarted like so many male villians before. It's as if being a strong woman is inherently wrong, rather than her actions and choices.'
What Hartigan is "cured" of is not her ability to be strong, but her lack of empathy, restoring the self-awareness that comes with an interdependent perspective. Lost, of course, because Cybermen lack empathy — but also because she was raised in a deeply patriarchal society (indeed, kyriarchal society) that must destroy the ability to empathize in order to perpetuate its inequitable power relations.
Unfortunately, Hartigan had become that which she most despised — simply sitting atop the ladder of hierarchy did not, in the end, destroy that toxic system of power relations; to be "king" perpetuates the throne.
January 21, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
If it hadn't been a fake regeneration, it would just have been a regeneration. We'd already know this was a regeneration story and whoever the new Doctor was (would it be Matt Smith, in this altered history?) would have been splashed over the cover of DWM six months earlier.
The idea that the Doctor might regenerate unexpectedly simply isn't tenable.
January 21, 2014 @ 2:43 pm
You joke, but Androzani could probably work that way; the fifth doctor is doomed from pretty much the moment he sets boot on the place, and the story is largely him just trying to stay alive while surrounded by various flavors of psychopaths. It'd be feasible (probably wouldn't make as good a serial, but I think maybe we could afford to sacrifice some percentage of the goodness of Androzani in exchange for getting rid of the Twin Dilemma) to move up the bat-milking scene an episode or so, have the Doctor die, and then spend the second half of the episode having Colin Baker psychopath-off against the locals.
He could strangle someone who isn't Peri, establishing him as a scary and not-quite-right incarnation, but he'd still come off as something less than a complete monster because (a) we'd be comparing him to the guest cast and (2) he wouldn't be trying to strangle Peri.
Like I said, not as good as Androzani as it stands now, but workable, and a way to start Colin Baker out without an exorcism.
January 21, 2014 @ 5:37 pm
He comes out from the dark caves into the light above, and strangles no more!
It could have been put across as a horribly claustrophobic experience for the Doctor, regenerating in those narrow, cramped tunnels and fissures deep down with the sleeping bats – no wonder he's a little unhinged at first. Presumably Davison would have done the actual milking, but only manages to get enough for one – still a heroic death.
It would have packed the serial with that much extra that they could probably have been convinced to drop the lava monster.
January 21, 2014 @ 7:35 pm
The book Amy Pong wrote when she was transported to the past featured a different version of the Curator who was young and skinny (Eleventh Doctorish I'd say.)
Since the book itself featured in "The Bells of Saint John" I'm inclined to take it at face value; at some point Amy encountered a Curator. (Just because the area is time-locked doesn't mean he couldn't take the long way 'round!)
Of course logical analysis cannot be applied to "The Angels Take Manhatten," due to the fact it's a gibberingly incoherent mess of scenes that all track from one to the other but make no sense when you line them all up together.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:09 am
Alan – Yeah, really. I don't know what to tell you. It's the kind of thing I would have written or imagined when I was eight years old as being the coolest thing ever, somehow understanding instinctively that Doctor Who would never have the budget to do it but that the show's [i]idea[/i] contained the possibility of it, any many other massive things… And then as a 30-something year old man, I got to SEE It, and I was eight again and in love. And it looked WONDERFUL. The snow, the cogs, the stomping and blowing up and Victorian London and arghh, my brain is still just so in love with that maybe ten second overhead 'crane shot' through the swirling snow that all critical faculties and higher brain functions shut down and I just do whatever the repressed 30-something male nerd version of 'squee' is.
I'm not proud of it, and I'm certainly not trying to convert anyone. It's just a thing that happened to me. 🙂
January 22, 2014 @ 2:02 am
A quick skim of London Labour suggests Mayhew wasn't really that interested in ethnic groups as we'd understand them today. He writes "Among them are to be found the Irish fruit-sellers; the Jew clothesmen; the Italian organ boys, French singing women, the German brass bands, the Dutch buy-a-broom girls, the Highland bagpipe players,and the Indian crossing-sweepers" but beyond that seems more concerned with regarding "Costermongers" as a distinct group, possibly related to the Irish.
I'm reminded of a story I read somewhere, but now can't find. There was a costume drama based on a true story, and it was criticised for "politically correct history" for casting a black actor as a judge.
And the producer explained that the casting was based on the fact the judge in the real case had been black.
January 22, 2014 @ 2:23 am
Yeah, I'd consider the Romana 'fashion show' regeneration scene and, for that matter, the Master's ad-hoc body-napping as a precursor to Nu-Who's take on the process. In fact, thinking about it, it was RTD who wrote Jacobi's regenerating Master saying "If he can have a young body then so can I!" Implying an element of choice. One could argue it's been there from the start. Hartnell rejuvenated, Troughton had Pertwee imposed on him by the Time Lords after being unable to choose from the options presented to him at his trial, There's nothing to suggest Pertwee couldn't have chosen to become Tom Baker who in turn had the Watcher to help him 'prepare'. Really it's only six, seven and eight who seem totally random.
January 22, 2014 @ 2:31 am
I made the same connection to the, really rather good, Summer Falls when Matt Smith says "I could be a curator" prior to merting old Tom in Day of the Doctor. In fact my head-canon says he got the idea from meeting the impressively bow-tied curator of the Van Gogh exhibition in Vincent and the Doctor. Try telling me that Bill Nighy isn't also a future Doctor!
January 22, 2014 @ 2:48 am
I can never get beyond he fact that the Doctor MILKED A BAT.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:25 am
Robot Monster + Doctor Who mashup? Glad you asked!
January 22, 2014 @ 3:39 am
@ jane: "Oooh, is there an Iris/River connection? I admit, I know diddlysquat about Iris."
Inasmuch as River is a mash-up of Iris and Benny Summerfield, yeah. While the "archeologist" aspect and not a lot else was imported from Benny, River plays a similar story function as Iris, which is to infuriate the Doctor by seeming to know more about his past & future than he does, to outrage him by willfully going about her own business without caring much for his pious rules, and to treat him with an over-familiarity that makes him uncomfortable around his other companions.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:42 am
I agree, it's really a shame we've never had that kind of thing happen – for Peter Davison to really be The Watcher, or Capaldi to turn up midway through "Time of the Doctor" to battle it out with his prior self. I figured if anybody could pull that off, it'd be the timey-wimey mind of Moffat, but hey-ho.
January 22, 2014 @ 3:43 am
I loved the CyberKing!
And speaking of silly, I remember that, at the time, I was really hoping this would turn out to be a riff on "The One Doctor" from Big Finish, which is really one of the most delightful of their offerings.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:17 am
The Nighy Curator's halting speech then becomes an attempt to remember the lines he heard all those centuries ago, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that he is the Curator.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:33 am
Count me in too! I have no problem with the CyberKing. As a visual metaphor it worked a treat. With its echoes of The Iron Giant and a kind of Manga/Steampunk aesthetic. It represents the idea that any society will percieve an incursion from the 'other' in terms of its own technology. In the 21st century we get Post-Modern Cybermen and their micro nano-mites infecting humanity via mobile phone technology etc. In Victorian England of course we get the low-tech macro version. In allegorical terms it represents the apex of the distorted class structure the Cybermen retain as a remnant of their human origins; mirroring Victoria the Widow Queen, Empress of all she surveys whose era Nu-Who seems fatally drawn to. In its mythic imagery this King of the undead empire of the Cybermen bestrides the Thames, a mechanical Colossus also bearing echoes of Poseidon and Hades. The fiery factory that powers it a direct image of both Hephaestus' forge and Blake's dark satanic mills. Inside its head is Miss Hartigan rewarded for her collusion by being forced to serve the heirarchical patriarchy this 'King' represents. The Cybermen always have a lovely sense of irony and an eye for a retro futurist aesthetic.
January 22, 2014 @ 6:44 am
Exactly. And the comparing and admiring of bow ties is a version of the hilarious 'ooh I like your glasses!' mime in Day of the Doctor.
I wonder are there any other Doctors/Curators/Warriors we might have unwittingly met in past stories?
Back on the subject of choosing your regenerating body I suspect the War Chief in The War Games might have had a go at the Sisterhood of Karn's potions and chosen Warrior. Blimey! Does that mean Phillip Madoc's War Lord is also Morbius?
January 22, 2014 @ 10:31 am
There are some indulgences, some elements to 'Stolen Earth'/'Journey's End' that leave me pretty cold. But I can forgivea lot for that ccliffhanger – even though I knew Tennant was going to be in 'the Next Doctor' a few months later, it still blew me away as an end to an episode. I know some people aren't satisfied by the convenient way it was resolved, but the consequences of that resolution play out across the entire second half of the story – it's certainly not just a cheap distraction, it's central to the story.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:15 pm
The BBC audios Tom Baker did make a lot more sense (IMHO) if he's a curator rather than the Doctor. He's been living in a cottage full of dangerous antiques he keeps watch over with a housekeeper — and has apparently been doing this for decades. That's a very Curator-y thing to do if Summer Falls is any indicator. (The Curator kept a small museum in a town for years and tracked down dangerous alien artifacts, appearing and disappearing from town intermittently.)
Baker wasn't calling himself the Curator in the BBC audios though, he was calling himself the Doctor. But we don't know quite how that works from his POV.
January 22, 2014 @ 5:32 pm
THEY NEVER SAW IT COMING
A list of the last thing the Doctors did before the fatal moment:
1 – has a walk in the snow
2 – gets told off
3 – gives back what he stole
4 – networks some computers
5 – milks a bat
6 – drinks some carrot juice
7 – reads a book
8 – has a chat
war – has some tea
9 – does some wiring
10 – goes skydiving
11 – carves a toy
January 22, 2014 @ 7:44 pm
"I can never get beyond he fact that the Doctor MILKED A BAT."
He was having a past-life flashback to the days when he called himself Tristan Farnon. 🙂
January 23, 2014 @ 7:43 am
What Hartigan is "cured" of is not her ability to be strong, but her lack of empathy, restoring the self-awareness that comes with an interdependent perspective.
Which would come across a lot better if she transformed her Cybermen similarly, reinfusing the qlippothic with divinity. Dying from the horror of what she's become weakens both the character and the metaphor, imo.
(Also, associating the kyriarchy's destruction of empathy with Cyberconversion such that reverses the one undoes the other is a brilliant redemptive reading and really deserved a fuller treatment.)